Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
A week later Mark received the following letter:
"Mark Mason: Please call at my office as soon as convenient.
"This letter is from Maud Gilbert's father," said Mark, addressing his mother. "I wonder what he wants."
"Nothing disagreeable, I am sure. Of course you will go."
"I will call to-morrow morning."
Mr. Gilbert was a commission merchant, with an office in the lower part of the city, west of Broadway. Mark obtained leave of absence for an hour agreeing to pay the price usually charged to customers.
He had seen Mr. Gilbert, a stout, portly man of fifty, during his call at the house in Forty-Fifth Street. Therefore when he was admitted to Mr. Gilbert's office, he addressed him not as a stranger but as an old acquaintance.
"I received your note, Mr. Gilbert, and have called according to your request."
"That is right, Mark. Sit down till I have finished looking over my letters. You will find the morning Herald on the table near you."
In ten minutes the merchant had finished with his letters, and whirled round in his chair.
"I believe you are a telegraph boy," he said.
"What pay do you receive?"
"I don't average over six dollars a week."
"How old are you?"
"My daughter thinks you are unusually bright and intelligent."
"I am very much obliged to Miss Maud for her good opinion," said Mark, his face flushing with gratification.
"How can you get along on six dollars a week? You have a mother partially dependent upon you, I believe."
"I have lately had a present of a thousand dollars from Mr. Luther Rockwell, the banker. I was in his office when a dynamite crank threatened to blow us all up."
"I heartily congratulate you, Mark. You deserved the gift for your coolness and courage, but it isn't every rich man who would make so generous an acknowledgment for your services."
"That's true, sir. Mr. Rockwell has been very kind."
"How do you like the position of telegraph boy?"
"I would like to give it up. It doesn't lead to anything. But I don't want to throw myself out of work. Six dollars a week is a small income, but it is better than nothing."
"I approve your prudence, but I think other and better employment can be obtained for you. Maud tells me that you were sent not long since to Cleveland with some valuable jewelry."
"You succeeded in your mission?"
"Did you meet with any adventures while you were gone?"
"Tell me briefly what they were."
Mark did so.
"Don't think I am influenced by curiosity," said Mr. Gilbert. "The fact is, I have a still longer journey for you if you don't object, and I wished to assure myself that you were adequate to undertake it. It may take six weeks, or it may take two months. I should advise you to give up your position as messenger, and I will guarantee you an equally good place when you return."
"Thank you, sir. In that case I won't hesitate to give it up."
"Your week closes to-morrow, I suppose."
"Then give notice at once."
"Where are you going to send me, sir?" asked Mark, with pardonable curiosity.
Mark looked amazed. He knew that California was even further away than Liverpool, and having the love of travel and adventure natural to boys of his age he felt that he should thoroughly enjoy the trip.
"I should like very much to go," he said promptly.
"Now I must tell you why I send you. A cousin of mine has just died in California, leaving a young son of ten years of age. He wrote me a letter from his death-bed commending the boy to my care. I will gladly undertake the charge of the boy, as I had a strong regard for his father, who, by the way had died poor.
"But a difficulty presented itself. The boy could not come East by himself, and there seemed no one to bring him. Of course I can't leave my business, and there is no one else in my family who can be sent. Under these circumstances Maud has recommended me to send you."
"I shall be glad to go, sir."
"You are a rather young guardian for a young boy, but I think you possess the necessary qualification. Your experience as a telegraph boy has made you sharp and self-reliant, and altogether I think you will acquit yourself to my satisfaction."
"I will try to, sir."
"I need no assurance of that."
"How am I to go?"
"By the Union and Central Pacific Road from Omaha. I will supply you with a through ticket."
"Shall you wish me to return immediately?"
"No; you can stay in California two or three weeks and get acquainted with the boy. I have never seen him, but I think you won't find him troublesome. Are you fond of children?"
"The poor boy will need a kind friend, having lost his father so recently. And now, there is one thing more to be spoken of—your compensation."
"I shall be satisfied with whatever you think right."
"Then we will fix that after your return. But you will need to leave some money with your mother to pay expenses while you are away."
"I can draw from Mr. Rockwell."
"No; if you have money in his hands let it remain. I will advance you a hundred dollars to leave with your mother. I may as well do that now. On Saturday evening, when you are released from your present position, call at the house and receive your ticket and final instructions."
"Thank you, sir."
Mr. Gilbert rang a little bell, and a boy appeared.
"Go to the bank and get this check cashed," said the merchant.
In a few minutes he returned with a roll of bills.
"Count them over and see if they are right, Mark."
"Yes, sir; they are correct."
"Very good! Remember that they are for your mother. Tell her also that if you remain longer than I anticipate, and she gets short of money, she can call at my office and I will supply her with more."
Mark left the office in a state of joyful excitement.
He was to make a long journey across the continent. He would see many states and cities, and become acquainted with places which he now knew only by hearsay. And after he returned his prospects would be brighter, for Mr. Gilbert had promised to find him a position at least equal to the one he resigned.
In the afternoon as Mark was returning from an errand in West Fiftieth Street, he saw Edgar Talbot in the neighborhood of Bryant Park.
"Hallo!" said Edgar condescendingly. "Are you on an errand?"
"Ho, ho! how you will look in a telegraph boy's uniform when you are a young man of twenty-five."
"What makes you think I am going to be a telegraph boy so long?"
"Because you are not fit for any other business."
"I am sorry for that," he said, "for as it happens I have tendered my resignation."
"You don't mean that you are going to leave the messenger service?"
"But how are you going to live? It won't be any use to ask father for money."
"I presume not."
"Perhaps," suggested Edgar hopefully, "you have been discharged."
"I discharged myself."
"Have you got another position?"
"I am going to travel for a while."
Edgar Talbot was more and more perplexed. In fact he had always found Mark a perplexing problem.
"How can you travel without money?"
"Give it up. I don't propose to."
"Have you got any money?"
Mark happened to have with him the roll of bills given him for his mother. He drew it out.
"Do you mean to say that is yours? How much is there?"
"A hundred dollars."
"I don't believe it is yours."
"It isn't. It belongs to my mother."
"But father said she was very poor."
"At any rate this money belongs to her."
"Where are you going to travel?"
This was all the information Mark would give. Edgar reported the conversation to his father, who was also perplexed.
"Mark Mason is a strange boy," he said. "I don't understand him."
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.